Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, February 3, 2004


Page 3


District 7 State Bar Board of Governors Race Draws Three Hopefuls


By a MetNews Staff Writer


Three lawyers said yesterday they will run for the two State Bar Board of Governors seats representing Los Angeles County to be filled in balloting during May and June.

Deputy Public Defender Marguerite D. Downing, Sherman Oaks attorney Phillip Feldman, and MetNews Co-Publisher Jo-Ann W. Grace confirmed they will be candidates to succeed former Attorney General John K. Van de Kamp and Matthew Cavanaugh. Van de Kamp and Cavanaugh will leave the board unless one of them is chosen State Bar president by his colleagues.

Yesterday was the first day nominating petitions for the Board of Governors became available. Petitions must be returned by April 1.

Voting is by district, with ballots being mailed out to members April 30 and due back June 30. Los Angeles County is District 7.

Ballots are to be canvassed July 12-15.

Downing said she will run for Van de Kamp’s seat. Grace said she had not decided which seat to run for, but will avoid pitting herself against Downing.

Both are members of the influential Breakfast Club, which had hand-picked candidates to represent District 7 for the last three decades, and until 2001 either persuaded would-be challengers not to run, or backed their own selections so massively that they almost always prevailed. After two years in which insurgent candidates defeated Breakfast Club choices, the group’s candidate—former Los Angeles Municipal Court Judge Sheldon Sloan—won last year’s race.

Downing and Grace said they would seek Breakfast Club backing. Grace, the group’s immediate past chair, said its members will meet later this month to hear candidate presentations and again in March to make endorsements.

Feldman, who polled 853 votes to finish fourth last year to Sloan, who received 2,100 votes, said he won’t run against Grace and supports her candidacy. He said he will not seek Breakfast Club backing if he believes the group has decided in advance whom it will support—as, he asserted, was the case last year.

Downing, the president-elect of California Women Lawyers, said her goal if elected will be to focus more of the State Bar’s energy on outreach rather than discipline. Too much of the bar’s effort and money are spent on the “20 percent who act up,” she said.

The bar also needs to find “ways to be more financially responsible,” she said.

Downing noted that she has been a deputy public defender for 15 years. In 1995-96 she was president of Black Women Lawyers and in 1998-99 she was president of the California Association of Black Lawyers.

“Jo-Ann and I started out early going around to the bar associations seeking their support,” Downing said, noting that she has the backing of the Korean American Bar Association and was to seek support last night from the Women Lawyers of Long Beach.

Grace, a former member of the State Bar’s Judicial Nominees Evaluation Commission, said she would like to see “a closer relationship between the State Bar and local bar associations.”

She explained:

“The majority of attorneys are involved on the local level. It would benefit the majority of lawyers in California if there were tighter relations between the two groups.”

Grace noted that unless one of the two eligible women is chosen as next year’s State Bar President, the board’s attorney membership could become all male after the State Bar convention in Monterey in early October. Redwood City attorney Vivian Kral and state Deputy Controller Windie O. Scott will leave the board unless one of them becomes president.

The board has three female public members, but no other woman lawyer members. Besides the two Los Angeles seats, three other spots on the 23-member board are up for election this year.

Feldman will be making his third run for the board, having also run, he said, about 30 years ago. He is a former State Bar volunteer prosecutor who now defends lawyers in State Bar Court.

Feldman said he has been active in many bar organizations, including the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s Professional Responsibility and Ethics Committee, the San Fernando Valley Bar Association, and the Legal Malpractice Certification Subcommittee of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys.

He noted that he is a founder of the Lawyers Professional Liability Bar Association.

“You name it, I belong to it,” he commented.

Feldman said he has experience in “getting a consensus from an adverse position” and would like to “help bring the Board of Governors back to the stature it had a decade ago.”

He said he expects to make a better showing than he did last year, when Sloan’s name recognition made him a “shoo-in.”

Feldman said he believes in “strict construction” of the rules barring the State Bar from becoming involved in political issues whenever “two reasonable lawyers could disagree” about them, and would like to see the State Bar’s other activities live up to the standard set by its discipline process.

“The State Bar Court ain’t broke, so I don’t want to fix it,” he declared.


Copyright 2004, Metropolitan News Company